This stone-arch bridge, built more than 100 years ago, might not have a future.
This is the Middletown Bridge, built in 1903 on the Michigan Road in Shelby County, about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis. It stands on a one-lane old alignment of the road that was bypassed in about 1923 when a modern bridge and a two-lane alignment were built nearby. As you can see, one of its arches has collapsed.
The Shelby County Commissioners want to demolish this bridge and not replace it. They argue that it serves only a handful of homes, and residents can enter and exit their neighborhood at the other end of this alignment, which is less than a half mile long. (On the map below, the bridge stands at the east end of County Road 425 S.)
But as one of three stone-arch bridges that remain on the Michigan Road (see one of the others here and here), and one of two stone-arch bridges that remain in Shelby County, it would be a shame to see the Middletown Bridge go.
Thankfully, this bridge still has a chance. Not only is this bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, it is on Indiana’s list of select bridges as part of the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Historic Bridges program. When counties agree to protect select bridges, they can bypass burdensome and expensive federal processes when they want to remove or replace non-select bridges. If Shelby County demolishes this select bridge, they lose the right to bypass those processes. So Shelby County is trying to have this bridge reclassified as non-select. But that requires several layers of government approval, including a period of public comment that ends June 20. The Historic Michigan Road Association, of which I’m currently president, has already sent a letter to INDOT requesting that this bridge retain its select classification and supporting its restoration.
I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.